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Archive | Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

Gradual Metamorphosis

by Ranger Steve Mueller

 

As a child I collected butterflies in fallow farm fields near my home.  I recall rearing large numbers of mourning cloaks and tent caterpillars.  The joy of the metamorphosis was miraculous and butterflies were released to “live and be happy”.  When I collected adults, I recall how difficult it was to kill such splendid creatures in my killing jar. Collecting allowed me to study details that were otherwise not possible. More than once I released specimens too near death to ever recover completely.  That may have been improper treatment for those poor individuals but a child has a unique view and understanding of life.

All too rapidly the fallow farm fields became housing developments and that angered and disappointed me.  The loss of habitat was crucial in my development as a lepidopterist.  As a seven year old, I recognized human population expansion was squeezing other life off the planet and by age 19 I decided to limit my own family to no more than two children. I developed understanding and reasons for collecting and studying these wonderful creatures whose presence declined proportionally with development and human population growth.

In addition to observing life histories, my efforts to collect, kill, and classify intensified so I could learn ways to sustain species and life.  I gradually metamorphosed in my understanding for taking the delightful insects from nature. It was essential to study details that help species survive. The research led me to discover distribution of species not known to live in Michigan and Utah. Scientific collecting allowed me to document hundreds of new County records where species were not known to live. Collecting even resulted in the discovery of a new species called the Brilliant Virgin Tiger Moth (Grammia brillians) at my Bryce Canyon National Park research site.

My three-year-old daughter, Jenny Jo, collected with me when young and clearly instructed me to release specimens from the net so they could “live and be happy”.  Thus I saw a new generation of lepidopterist beginning her metamorphosis. I thought her development and collecting efforts might help butterflies “live and be happy”. Now grown, her efforts do not include study of butterflies but she developed a love for life and joy for nature’s biodiversity. She lives conservatively to sustain life on Earth for all species.

Jenny helped me again see the miraculous nature of butterfly existence that a child sees. A three-year-old renewed my efforts to help butterflies “live and be happy” – a thought sometimes difficult for the adult perspective but one we should never lose.

Live a life that conserves nature niches.

Adapted from July 1983 article published in the Lepidopterists’ Society News

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.  616-696-1753.

 

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Public Invited to Nature Programs

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Grand Rapids Audubon and Michigan Botanical Clubs invite the public to enjoy two different free nature programs on February 22 and 24, 2014 presented by Ranger Steve.

Botanizing the Natural World sponsored by the Michigan Botanical Club will be at GVSU Allendale Campus in Niemeyer Hall, Room 148 on Saturday Feb. 22 at 2 p.m.

Program Description: Enjoy the world of plants that surround us throughout the year. Plants are friends that share beauty, mystery, and intrigue, while providing basic needs in ecosystems. Their adaptations help them survive where they stand for a lifetime. Enjoy a fascination with plants as we discover special features that serve their needs and those of other organisms in ecosystems. The program will provide a glimpse of wildflowers, trees, and associated animals we will be able to experience at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary on a Saturday, September 13, 2014 on a field trip at 2 p.m. Bring family and friends for enjoyable pictures and dialog with Ranger Steve this Saturday.

Dorothy Sibley, president of MBC says, “Ranger Steve is a great presenter you won’t want to miss. See you there!” Refreshments will be served following the presentation.

Directions to Niemeyer Hall: Room 148 (Case Room) is on the 1st floor in Niemeyer Hall. If you come to campus on M-45 (Lake Michigan Drive) turn onto campus and follow the road called Campus Drive until you come to a four-way stop. This is Calder Drive. Turn left on Calder Drive and then turn left into parking lot M, where you may park. (Open parking on Saturdays).

The Grand Rapids Audubon Club program is Monday evening Feb. 24th at 7:30 p.m. with 7 p.m. refreshments at Orchard View Church on Leffingwell at 3 Mile Rd. Go 1 mile west from the East Beltline on 3 mile Rd. and left on Leffingwell. The church parking is on the right at the corner.

Program Title and Description:

Birds and Life at Ody Brook Sanctuary:

Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary in Cedar Springs is managed to enhance biodiversity. Discover the variety of life that could thrive in your yard when extensive lawns are limited in size and replaced with native plants that support bird and other animal populations. The sanctuary is located in the headwaters for Little Cedar Creek with both upland and wetland habitats. Over 100 bird, 24 mammal, 11 herps, 51 butterfly species have been documented along with nearly 250 species of plants and many other species.

Five acres were added to the sanctuary in 2011 to further protect the floodplain. Nature trails meander the property with bridges over the creek. Ponds, stream, field and forest comprise the splendor. Brook trout enter the sanctuary in spring. Green Herons, Wood Ducks, American Woodcocks, three species of owls, Pileated Woodpeckers, Eastern Bluebirds, Gray Catbirds, Blue-winged Warblers, Eastern Towhees, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks attest to habitat variety. Many Orders of insects thrive and create conditions suitable for bird abundance. Natural history of birds, flowers, trees, and insects will highlight the abundance of life that comprises local biodiversity.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.  

 

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Southern Flying Squirrels

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

 

My oldest daughter and I ventured into the night when we were on our way somewhere. She asked, “What’s making that sound?” We listened and heard a chipping nearby but could not see what was making the sound. The outside light was on but revealed no birds or other animals.

We used our ears to locate the sound. It was coming from near the bird feeder but nothing was there. We moved closer and the sound was definitely coming from the feeder with no animals on it. I lifted to cover to see what might be inside and out “flew” three Southern Flying Squirrels. Not only were the squirrels surprised, so were we when life exploded from inside the feeder.

The flying squirrels do not actually fly. They glide on parachute skin flaps that stretch between fore and hind legs. They also have a flattened tail that helps with buoyancy in the air and aids as a rudder. Large bulgy eyes help in the deep darkness of night. These small mammals are truly nocturnal and are seen only in daylight when disturbed from a shelter cavity.

They depend on dead hollow trees for survival. Food, water, and a few acres of appropriate living space are necessary. Without cavities for shelter they do not do well. People often want to “clean up” yards of dead standing trees. I suggest leaving dead trees stand unless they are in a location that may result in injury to people or damage to the house when they fall.

As director at Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC), I removed dead trees near trails where they could present a danger. I have recommended current HCNC landscape managers to allow most dead trees to stand. People have a tendency to want them for burning in fireplaces or woodstoves. It is usually better to take live trees that are crowded too close together. Thin live trees instead of taking dead ones. The remaining live trees will grow healthier with more vigor in a thinned forest. After cut trees are aged for months to a year, they make better firewood than do dead trees. Dead trees lose substance with time and provide less heating capacity.

It is not just squirrels that need dead trees for survival. There are many species of mammals, birds, and insects that need the shelter gained from dead trees. A forest is not healthy without a large number of standing dead trees. During the extreme cold we have been experiencing, bluebirds huddle together in hollow tree cavities to survive the night. Northern Flying Squirrels are more common in the Upper Peninsula but could possibly get this far south. To tell them apart one would probably need to have them in hand to examine the color of hair bases.

There are many living things, like Southern Flying Squirrels, that are never or seldom seen. Life abounds at HCNC and Ody Brook because dead wood is allowed to stand. Your yard can support a great amount of life when managed well. Life in nature niches depends on a healthy supply of the dead.

Think food, water, shelter and appropriate living space. Provide conditions that allow nature to provide the food, water, and shelter. You can supplement with birdseed, nest boxes, and birdbaths but the main source of life support should come from what nature provides for free in a well-managed landscape.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. Submitted 7 Feb 2014

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Time and Space

By Ranger Steve Mueller

A clear black sky perforated with brilliant illuminations from countless stars lighted the luge-like chute depression of our snow path during last night’s walk. Crisp snow squeaked under foot in the -9 degrees Fahrenheit air. No owls called. It was too early for activity. I have not discovered a particular hour Barred Owls select to call. They seem to call earlier in the evening than the Great Horned Owl. Horned owls schedule hoots for midnight and again at 5:30 a.m. in mid winter.

The New Year is an exciting time for emergence and rebirth of one’s spirit from the womb of the year. Old memories are lost in recesses of the mind and only resurface when triggered by smells, sights, sounds, tastes, or touches that draw them forth. The Pleiades star constellation is a distant friend that looks like the Big Dipper removed so far in space that it looks like a dipper that has lost size. The depth of the dark night reveals the immense size of surroundings.

It is only with thought that we penetrate time and space in any real manner. Both are too remote to experience with our physical senses. With our physical senses we enter the natural world to gain access to the spirit of the universe. Physical senses allow us to experience the wonders around us. Then we can contemplate and reflect on the spirit of nature and begin to understand the wonders of birds, plants, mammals, water, insects, and air in the natural world. Our place in the universe is small. The big dipper is perceptively small when compared with its galaxy. The galaxy is minuscule among the billions and billions of galaxies peppering light throughout the grand darkness of space.

Time loses meaning in the distance of space but here on Earth it is real. We share nature niches in a fleeting moment of time and space with other species. For that instant it is the most important moment of life. There is no past and no future at the moment when I see a chickadee, hear its call, or feel its presence as it wings past my hand at the feeder. For that moment we are alone and yet together in the universe at the same time in the same space. The universe has suddenly been reduced in size by my perception and a spiritual bond is created between bird and me.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

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Owl Relationships

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

I wonder about the important relationships.

Sunday morning I stopped at Ody Brook’s road entrance where I saw a dead bird. At first I thought it was a Ruffed Grouse but quickly realized it was a gray phase Eastern Screech Owl. I drove to church.

During silent prayers I prayed for Greg and Cindi in regards to what is appearing to be a terminal cancer for Cindi. Then I prayed for the owl that lost its life and also for its family.

I received a call in January from a man that found a Great Horned Owl dead in the snow.  Upon retrieving the owl, he realized it died a strange death. The owl was flying close to the ground and flew into a grape vine. The vine branched into a V. The owl’s neck got caught and wedged in the V. The owl was hanging limply by the neck. The skin was ripped and the neck broken. I hoped the owl died instantly instead of hanging helplessly wedged by the neck.

Now that it is dead, I wonder about its mate and plans that were made. It is breeding season. Owl pairs have probably found some advantages and some disadvantages to the two plus feet of snow received. The snow surely affected hunting and daily routines. Males are catching prey to present to females. Nest selection and refurbishing has been underway. Territory boundaries have been claimed and posted with vigilant calls and patrols. We heard a Great Horned Owl begin hooting here this week.

What now? Was it the male or female that died? What emotional strain would envelop the remaining owl? January is a hard month without the loss of a mate.

Males offer food and females expect it. Females may have begun egg laying and should be sitting tight to nests waiting for mates to bring nourishment. The forest must sound empty without the nightly hoots of her mate.

Many think that only people experience emotional loss and associated loss of contributory sustenance when a spouse dies. In nature niches, many species help sustain mates, especially during the breeding season. When a mate suddenly disappears without a trace, the emotional strain must be great. No one notifies the family member of what happened. Emotional strain is a combination of chemical and nervous stimulation. Only in a few social species do others comfort and assist the grieving.

Personal survival demands the owl continue valiantly. For the owl, a lone female left to survive will probably continue but her eggs may not hatch. Exposure while she hunts might be too great and the embryos will likely never develop.

Life is hard with emotional traumas. When a bird’s nest is raided, an ant’s food taken, or a person’s body withers from disease, these organisms experience emotion. How we choose to interpret nervous and chemical changes and then define emotion is our choice.

Emotion may be quantified and even dismissed by some scientific standards for some organisms. Perceptive people will recognize what I call many realms of reality. Ants, owls, and people share experiences of living and emotion. We are all of the same DNA.  Our perceptions and emotions are different in degree with links dating back to the beginnings of life.

I wonder about the important relationships.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, Michigan 49319-8433.

 

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Christmas Bird Count

Christmas-bird-countFifty-one participants observed 60 species of birds (Table 1) on the Kent County Bird Count. With the addition of a Snowy Owl, 4 species of owls were recorded this year. No additional bird species were reported during count week. Total individuals sighted were 8725.

Carolina Wrens were big news with 17 sighted. Until this year only 37 have been sighted since 1953. About one third of the wrens sighted in 60 years were sighted this year. Carolina Wrens have been expanding their range northward. Robins sporadically began appearing on the Christmas Count beginning in 1965 with one and by 1977 17 occurred. Their numbers varied from zero to 27 until 1998 when 228 stayed for winter. Numbers were fewer than 25 annually until 2002 when we reached at high count of 238. Robins have been yearly regulars since 1997 and this year reached 105.

Canada Geese were not observed until 1975 and have been present every year since. In the early part of the 20th century Aldo Leopold noted Canada Geese were headed for extinction. Thanks to groups like Audubon, Ducks Unlimited and Federally funded programs, Canada Geese decline was reversed along with that of many species. The Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Clear Air Act, and establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency have improved environmental health for people, birds and economy. The establishment of conservation reserve easements on private farmlands and establishment of National Wildlife Refuges have been significantly important.

Christmas bird counts across the continent help document seasonal abundance, population trends, and changes in distribution. Citizen science projects like this help provide data useful for scientists studying environmental quality and changes in things like climate. As always, you are encouraged to participate in the annual bird count.

Conditions were 100 percent sunny all day with temperatures between 25 and 44 F. A light southerly breeze blew. Snow depth was between 3 and 12 inches. Moving water was partly open and still water was frozen.

We totaled 84 hours in vehicles traveling 830 miles. On foot we spent 15 hours covering 22 miles. A total of 852 miles were on foot and driving. Total birding hours was 100 plus 5 hours owling for 26 miles. There were 18 birding groups in the morning and 13 in the afternoon.

I am grateful for the needed support from group leaders and many people that made the count a success.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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Wintering Monarchs

A Monarch Butterfly feeding on Swamp Milkweed.

A Monarch Butterfly feeding on Swamp Milkweed. 

You can save the world for monarch butterflies in your yard. Monarch numbers are down.

Follow through on a New Year’s Resolution to save the world for Monarchs. Make sure milkweeds grow in your garden or on disturbed ground. Saving the world is within our grasp if we are responsible Earth stewards. Actions in our yards can make a difference for good. Grow milkweeds for the love of wildlife and beauty in your yard, as a religious mandate for creation stewardship, or to protect your own survival by keeping fellow inhabitants of Earth present that provide essential contributions to nature niches.

The following information is based on a New York Times article passed along by colleagues Barb Bloetscher and further massaged by Dave Horn.

Numbers of over wintering monarch butterflies are at record low numbers this year in Mexico. Last year’s estimate of 60 million was already a record low, and fewer than three million have appeared so far this fall (20 times fewer). Some fear that the spectacular monarch migration might be a thing of the past.

The decline is real, although the cause or causes are not obvious. Recently, scientists have focused on loss of native vegetation, especially in and around agricultural fields in mid America. As the price of corn has soared recently, farmers have expanded fields by plowing every available piece of land that can grow corn. Millions of acres once in conservation reserve are now plowed, and more and more herbicide is used in crop production. That has led to loss of many nectar sources plus uncounted acres of milkweed, the food for monarch caterpillars. It is estimated that Iowa has lost 60 to 90 percent of its milkweed. Roads, malls and sterile lawns have also contributed to the loss of food for monarch larvae and adults, along with those of other butterflies.

So what to do? Anyone with a yard or garden can increase biological diversity with a variety of wild and cultivated plants including milkweed. For additional ideas, log onto the Monarch Watch website: http://www.monarchwatch.org/

An additional note that I mentioned in a previous Nature Niche article is that genetically modified corn and soybeans have made crops resistant to herbicides. Plants necessary for wildlife cannot survive the increased herbicide use. Monarchs have lost most food sources between Mexico and Michigan. Our yards are essential habitat and each of us is essential in the effort to maintain healthy biodiversity. Our cities and our rural yards are the new Ark for Monarchs, Earth, and us.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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Silhouettes of Life

By Ranger Steve Mueller

A cottontail rabbit was in the backyard under the apple tree eating something in the deep snow. When I first noticed, it was sitting tall with front legs high above the ground. I first thought it was a plant silhouette that looked like a rabbit until it dropped to all fours and resumed eating. The yard was snow covered with no vegetation apparent above the snow. I wondered what it was eating. Later I discovered it was eating fallen apples.

Young trees will be killed during winter when rabbits girdle them for the tasty and nutritious bark. The yard took on a new beauty with twelve inches of snow. A wonderful cold spell remained in the low 20’s or colder keeping snow light and fluffy. Snow glazed tree branches but was thickest on larger branches. A cherry that would stand about 18 feet tall was arched with ice and snow highlighting its bent silhouette. I had not noticed the tree was bent until the snow outline drew my eye. It was not bent from snow or ice weight. This tree has been bent for a long time and I wondered how it became bent.

It crossed my mind that I should cut it to make room for it to sprout new straight growth or remove it so surrounding plants could grow without interference. Immediately I realized how much influence I could exert on the community at Ody Brook. It is not just my meddling but that of other creatures that shape the biotic landscape of silhouettes. Rabbits annually kill many young woody stems but roots strive to survive and produce new clusters of shoots in spring. There was a bird nest in the sugar maple in front of the house. I wondered if the bird was successful in rearing young. It seems that one of the many squirrels living here might have found the nest and eaten the eggs. During winter many nest silhouettes become apparent on naked exposed branches that were well camouflaged during the growing season.

Large trees stand tall protecting the open yard and house from winter’s heat stealing winds. They shelter birds, mammals, insects and us from the wind chilling bitter cold. Branch silhouettes provide a variety of views during long winter months. One night at dusk a few clouds mottled the sky behind living tree skeletons. Only a faint hint of orange penetrated between the branches making the view subtly beautiful as night took hold. Dimness slowly blurred and erased the separation of light and dark between trees and sky. Soon all was a dark canopy waiting for the next day’s new stories to be written in sky, on snow, and among the tree branches. Life activities continue during the depths of night and are revealed by telltale signs left for the sun to illuminate, when an interested explorer seeks nature niche mysteries.

As the year wound down to the solstice, my thoughts anticipated what might happen as daylight lengthened in the coming six months. Many best friends share Ody Brook Sanctuary and surroundings. Many will not survive the winter. Some friends are plants and are some animals. I even wondered if I would witness another year’s cycle of life and death as my body attacks itself with its own cells out of control with cancer. Cancer reminds me of my own mortality and heightens awareness and joy for everyday wonders.

I work diligently to enhance conditions that support healthy habitats for wild creatures, other people, and my family that call West Michigan home. Without hundreds of species at Ody Brook Sanctuary making life sustainable, rich, and meaningful for family and friends, there would be little purpose to wake. Without wild creatures there would be no breathable air, soil would be sterile, and plants could not grow food to nourish animals or us. Not only would there be no reason to wake but we could not wake without the contributions of nature that sustain life. We like to think we can survive and even thrive without wild creatures but we cannot. Happy New Year to all creatures bringing life and health to a new year.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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Restoring life in your yard

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The joy of this past year with friends and family provides satisfaction and contentment. Immediately we anticipate what the coming year holds. We determined much of the future by our activities. Grandiose plans are forming. Some are just a start towards healthier days for our family, community, nation, and the world in fragile finite environments that support us.

Everything begins close at hand here at home. Look around and notice not much human activity takes place in yards. Most of us hide away in the warmth and comfort of our shelter with tasty food tucked away. We are like the Eastern Chipmunk that makes fewer ventures outside during late fall and we might also stay hidden inside during the coldest snowy days of winter.

The chipmunk stored food for the short days and long cold nights and is now curled in a snug ball in its underground fortress. It will remain active, eat and wait for a spring emergence. She will not hibernate but will sleep with little else to do. It has aided root health by tunneling and aerating the soil.

We do not need to sleep away the beauty and marvel of winter. We can venture to hidden corners of our yard enjoying evidence of abundant life. Tracks on snow, tunnels under it, sightings of squirrels in trees keep us entertained and aware that we do not live alone in the world.

The more native plants you allow to survive in the yard allow for an abundance of animal life. There is beauty in a manicured grass lawn and feeling of space that gives comfort to us even when it is under inches of snow. A lawn, however, is an almost sterile world that is crowding life off the planet.

Lawns often have little human activity except on workdays when we mow them with power mowers that expel carbon greenhouse gas into the air. Tom Small describes US lawns collectively as 45 million acres of “No man’s land.” It might be better to identify them as sterile land lacking suitable nature niches for sustaining biodiversity to support us and fellow inhabitants of Earth.

Small states that lawns are a vast, sterile, industrialized monoculture that robs soil of nutrients, robs streams of water, robs the region’s creatures of habitat, and robs the neighborhood of community.

It impressed me when I took a group of middle school students, including two from Cedar Springs, on an educational trip to the rain forest and rural communities in Belize. In a poor rural community, we observed women with children gathered in a yard with flower hedges along the property boundary. Neighbor’s yards were without flowers and shrubs and were devoid of people. People usually do not gather on empty lawns to visit and pass time even here in the US. We like to be among life and beauty.

During the New Year, plan to restore the yard with an abundance of life that preceded settlement of our town and rural surroundings. Most yards now use natural resources without giving back or paying it forward for the health of coming generations. We often give gifts and community support for those in need. Consider giving vital inheritance for coming generations. Squandering the soil, nutrients, air, and water quality steals economic and physical health from unborn generations. Unfortunately, beautiful lawns reduce life on Earth. Let nature into your yard this coming year and restore life. It starts at home.

The creatures that fill nature niches replenish nutrient cycles, brighten our days, and maintain clean air and water. Fellow inhabitants of Earth are money in the bank for a sustainable future. They are the savings account of our kids. This new year, plan to replace sections of the lawn with native plants to restore health in the yard. You will enjoy birds and the air will fill with the songs of nature during day and night.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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Bird Opportunity

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Join others for a last bird watching opportunity in 2013. Experienced birders will help you identify about 60 species on December 28, during the Christmas Bird Count sponsored by National Audubon, Michigan Audubon, and Grand Rapids Audubon Club.

This is my 27th year coordinating the Kent County event. It’s a time people enjoy seeing birds in their winter nature niches and celebrate the diversity of life that abounds around us. About 60 people gather and divide into small groups that venture to various areas within the count circle. Birds are counted in an area with a 7.5-mile radius surrounding the Honey Creek and Two Mile Roads intersection.

Some are surprised we annually find American Robins and Eastern Bluebirds. They are birds that stay provided berries are found in wetlands. More exciting are winter bird visitors that consider this area a southern wintering ground. Included are the Snowy Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Snow Bunting, Purple Finch, and Common Redpoll. Other remaining here in winter that most of us do not notice are Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, and Song Sparrow. I saw a kingfisher here at Ody Brook along Little Cedar Creek last week.

Some winter migrants from the north have arrived indicating count day should be great. A Rough-legged Hawk flew over Ody Brook and I observed a Snow Owl west of here. Two Snow Bunting flocks made an appearance in farm fields.

The local Audubon Club hopes you join the free family activity for part or all day. Previous bird knowledge or experience is not necessary. Join experienced birders and carpool for a great birding experience. Meet at the Wittenbach/Wege Agri-science and Environmental Education Center (WWC) across the street from Lowell High School at 11715 Vergennes Rd on December 28. The WWC is a great facility to visit and see many live mounts of birds displayed or hike a trail. WWC is where I was director during the last years before retiring from fulltime work. I hold Federal and State permits to display birds through the Michigan Audubon Society at Howard Christensen Nature Center and WWC. Plan on visiting either facility if you want to learn identification, size, and postures for birds before count day.

We meet at 7:30 a.m. at WWC, organize into groups and are out birding by 8 a.m. Some people join for the morning and others stay for the day. A hot lunch will be provided for $5 or bring a brown bag lunch. Consider making a donation to support the National Christmas Bird Count. Money donated is sent to the National Audubon and is used to maintain the database for all bird sightings on the continent. Scientists as well as birders can view the data online. It is used to monitor population changes from year to year. This is the 116th year for the Audubon Count.

Come dressed in layers that can be removed or added as temperature changes. We are in and out of cars at many locations. Bring binoculars and bird books if you have them. People will share if you do not. It is best to call me ahead of time (616-696-1753) if you plan to participate but just showing up is fine. I can answer questions you might have about count day activities.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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